The sublated style of a cinema in transition: Grigori Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg, and Oleksandr Dovzhenko from the 1920s - 1930s




Bancroft, Alan

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This Master’s thesis examines the period of transition (1928-1935) in Soviet cinema when the avant-garde directors Grigori Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg, and Oleksandr Dovzhenko, among others, began to make films under the strictures of a new state-mandated socialist realist aesthetic. It argues, despite the prominence of literature which maintains that socialist realism precipitated a conceptual break that effectively ended avant-garde filmmaking practice, that socialist realism simultaneously preserved, developed, and negated elements of the avant-garde cinema. Using Katerina Clark’s The Soviet Novel and Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” this thesis first illustrates the programmatic, narrative, and ideological continuities between the aesthetics in Kozintsev and Trauberg’s The New Babylon (1929), Alone (1931), and The Youth of Maxim (1935). These films exemplify how socialist realism perpetuated the modified bildungsroman plot pre-figured by the avant-garde, further transformed Leninism’s spontaneity/consciousness dialectic which ideologically interpellates individuals via social being, and began to utilise continuity editing in place of montage to construct overtonal ideological impressions. Next it explores continuities of visual stylistics in five films by Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Zvenigora (1928), Arsenal (1929), Earth (1930), Ivan (1932), and Aerograd (1935). Here the concepts of the “transitional film” and the “reduced form of stylistics” are introduced. The claim is made that the films made after the introduction of sound technology and before the official codification of socialist realism in 1934 represent a distinct hybrid of the avant-garde and socialist realist aesthetics and that a particular mediation of avant-garde stylistics through the new strictures was practiced. In the films of Dovzhenko, the continuing employment of three devices is identified to support the concept of the reduced form of stylistics: the use of the monocle (single element) lens, the poeticization of death, and stylised figure movement. In identifying the trajectories of plot structure, ideology, and stylistic devices in the transition from the avant-garde to socialist realism, this thesis elucidates significant continuities between the two aesthetics that embody a conceptual development, or sublation, in place of a conceptual break, or pure negation.



oleksandr dovzhenko, dovzhenko, cinema, slavic studies, russia, ukraine, soviet, soviet cinema, grigori kozintsev, leonid trauberg, feks, film studies, film, sublation, ideology